"Serenity Now!" The Seinfeld fans among you will remember the
episode in which George's father hollers this phrase just about
every time a Costanza enters the room.
by Susie Cortright
I've been yelling that phrase a lot lately, and it doesn't seem to
be helping much.
If you've ever been around me for more than a few minutes,
there is a personality trait I think you'll notice, and it
certainly has nothing to do with serenity.
I think I really dig melodrama in my life. I rush everywhere,
and I like feeling busy. The funny thing is, the people I
admire most are cool and confident, graceful and relaxed.
Sarah Ban Breathnach, in Simple Abundance, writes, "We can
dramatically change the quality of our lives when we consciously
seek to restore serenity to our daily endeavors." But, she says,
this will happen only when we women stop behaving like "whirling
When I imagine a whirling dervish, I picture some kind of
gopher-like creature spinning and spinning and spinning until
his head is ready to blow off.
Now, I've looked it up, so I know a dervish really
doesn't have anything to do with a rodent,
but I still like the mental imagery because sometimes I feel
like a tense, buck-toothed creature that just wants to howl and
spin until I pop.
I don't know where this melodramatic trait comes from. I
don't even like soap operas. But then, maybe that's because
I live one (or try my best to feel as though I do). Or maybe,
because I make my living as a writer, I spend my days looking
for the height of drama, even when I don't have a pen in hand.
In any case, I know I'm not alone. Lots of us create the
drama we experience. Maybe we do it because it makes us feel
more important, indispensable even....the idea that, if we
weren't around to handle things, it would all go straight south.
Richard Carlson, in his immensely popular book, Don't
Sweat the Small Stuff...and it's all small stuff, says
those of us who treat everything as a big fat emergency
are frightened that our own laziness and apathy will
actually take over.
That's part of it, I think. Sometimes,
I fear that if I stop being all frantic and pressured...if
I let my guard down for one second, something in my psyche
will step in and I'll suddenly realize I never wanted to be
such an overachiever after all.
Carlson then clues us in to the fact that the opposite is
true. He says we have to get over the notion that "gentle,
relaxed people can't be superachievers." In reality, all
this melodramatic behavior is quite debilitating. It
paralyzes us and keeps us from our creativity, he says.
When I think about the energy I waste acting all frantic
and panicky, it makes me...well, frantic and panicky. So,
with the help of my favorite self-help authors and the
advice of friends that have watched me produce my private
soap opera for years, here are six tips to keep us all
from pushing the panic button.
Creative visualization works wonders. Imagine yourself
going through a typical day with the kind of inner peace
that nullifies real-world pressures. Visualize yourself
behaving with the cool confidence possessed by so many
Use your journal to focus on your own competence. List
the events and problems you have dealt with successfully.
See? You can handle anything.
Remind yourself, whenever necessary, that much of the
drama you experience in your life is self-created and
Try not to take yourself so seriously. Make fun of
yourself once in a while. I love humor columnists
because they deal with the same life issues we all
do, but they introduce a new-and much healthier-perspective.
For example, my 14-month old can't get through the grocery
store without making a major mess of one aisle or another.
It sure doesn't seem funny as I'm restocking the shelves
on my hands and knees, but when I read a humorist's account
of taking a toddler to the store, I laugh. Maybe my life
is pretty funny, too.
When you know you're blowing something out of proportion,
resist the temptation to pitch it that way to your friends.
Tell me if this has ever happened to you. You start thinking
about something and it gets dramatized a bit in your head.
Then, you tell someone about it. When your friend has a
normal, sympathetic reaction, you interpret the response
as agreement that, yes, this is a big deal. Suddenly,
what started out as an afternoon afterthought has evolved
into an enormous problem.
Tip Six: Work on single task orientation. I know, it's
next to impossible to finish one task before you're off
to another, but a singular focus will help keep you from
becoming distracted. When we get sidetracked, we are more
easily overwhelmed. That's when the real panic sets in.
Here's to working toward a more serene, effective life.
And here are a few of my favorite books to help you do so.
(Editor's Note: Click the title for more information on each book)
Simple Abundance, by Sarah Ban Breathnach
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff, by Richard Carlson
Love is Letting Go of Fear, by Gerald Jampolsky
Copyright 2003 Susie Cortright
About the Author
Susie Michelle Cortright is the author of several books for women
and founder of the award-winning Momscape.com, a website designed
to help busy women find balance. Visit HERE
to get Susie's course-by-email, "6 Days to Less Stress" free.